A hoped-for sane policy for community funding grants


city_scope_logo-cmykWith no sane or sensible guidelines currently in place, council is about to grapple with how it dishes out funding to community groups.

At Monday’s meeting of council, members will receive a report entitled Policy on Granting Funds to Community Organizations, a framework that should have been in place years ago.

No better example of the helter-skelter approach utilized in the past than the dithering this summer over whether St. Thomas Cemetery Company should be granted $59,000 in funding.

A debate that appears more grounded in personality conflict than sound financial sense. Continue reading

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Hey, you can’t threaten us in that tone!


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The Times-Journal has referred to it as The Great Divide: the emotional rift at Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School that is the result of a school board decision to bus more than 200 students to Port Stanley Public School in the fall due to overcrowding at their home school.

Only 30 or so parents attended a January forum held by the school council to propose options to alleviate the crush of students at the former Homedale Public School.

The population at the school has swelled from 494 students in 2010 to 780 in 2014. Continue reading

St. Thomas Cemetery Company: Who needs to reach out to who?


At the April 13th council meeting, Coun. Linda Stevenson suggested members should revisit the $59,000 St. Thomas Cemetery grant that was denied during budget deliberations in March.

West Avenue Cemetery in St. Thomas

West Avenue Cemetery in St. Thomas

Mayor Heather Jackson stressed on several occasions Monday the cemetery had not contacted the city and she re-iterated, “I’m surprised we have heard absolutely nothing from them.”

However we have obtained a copy of a fact sheet provided by Lesley Buchanan and the St. Thomas Cemetery Company to Mayor Jackson and all members of council outlining in fairly detailed fashion the current situation. Continue reading

Spending big doesn’t get you the chain of office


city_scope_logo-cmykThe final numbers have been submitted and it’s a bitter lesson for mayoral candidate Mark Cosens, who found you can’t spend your way to the top.
March 27 was the deadline for candidates to file campaign expenses for the 2014 municipal vote and all 22 individuals met that target.
Cosens claimed $15,244.94 in expenses, which was well beyond double the amount logged by Mayor Heather Jackson at $5,883.59.
Cliff Barwick, who filed months ago, spent just over $4,000. Continue reading

Council not unanimous in approving 3.55% tax levy hike for 2015


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By approving its Part 2 capital budget and the 2015 operating budget Monday, city council authorized a property tax levy of $47,040,822 for this year.

That translates to a 3.55% property tax hike in 2015, up slightly from the 3.48% proposed, yet less than the 3.8% tax levy in 2014.

The slight increase from the proposed budget presented last week to council during a public meeting at the St. Thomas Seniors’ Centre is accounted for in additional grant money doled out by council.

In total, $281,146 was distributed to community groups and social agencies in St. Thomas, much of that sum drawn from working reserves.

That figure does not include $250,000 to St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital for its expansion program as part of the city’s 10-year pledge. Continue reading

Trash-talking councillor bags Downtown Development Board


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Hot off the press Friday: public sector salary disclosures for 2014.

Now the city hall figures were released earlier this month and to recap, a total of 96 employees earned greater than $100,000, a more than 50% increase over the 2013 total of 62.

Breaking that number down, 33 members of the St. Thomas Police Service are now included, up from 16 in 2013.

Over at the fire department, 48 employees earned $100,000 or more in 2014 as compared to 32 the year previous.

And 15 city administrators exceed that figure, an increase of one over 2013.

Topping the earnings list at city hall was CAO Wendell Graves at $172,372 ($165,900 in 2013). John Dewancker, director of environmental services, earned $139,693 as compared to $132,309 the previous year and Graham Dart, director of human resources, had a salary of $127,839 in 2014 ($124,784). Continue reading

No bins means more garbage on Talbot Street. Surprised?


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Honestly, you cannot make things like this up. When walking along Talbot St. on Wednesday to take photos of garbage in the downtown core, homeless advocate Jason McComb commented on a study undertaken by the city this winter to determine what happens when you take away most of the garbage cans.
Seriously.
Now Jason, employed in the past by the Downtown Development Board — at minimum wage — to clear Talbot St. of garbage each day, doesn’t mince his words but I had to challenge him on the veracity of this so-called study.
He stood his ground and that left this corner to call Earl Taylor, DDB chairman, to get the skinny on downtown garbage and why Jason is no longer permitted to pick up trash, even on his own time. Continue reading